There is a certain type of post-Soviet anxiety that manifests itself in fear of state authorities, border controls or even doormen. The memory of 1989 may have largely faded, but the feeling of being ‘eastern’ has stayed with many – not least those who have built up lives and careers in the West, writes Júlia Sonnevend.
Júlia Sonnevend is Assistant Professor of Sociology and Communications at the New School for Social Research in New York. She has held fellowships at the Truman Institute for the Advancement of Peace at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, the Centre for Contemporary History in Potsdam, and the Yale Center for Cultural Sociology in New Haven. Her scholarship lies at the intersection of media studies, cultural sociology and international relations, and aims to show that we are far less rational in our political, social and mediated lives than we imagine ourselves to be. Her first book, Stories Without Borders: The Berlin Wall and the Making of a Global Iconic Event (Oxford University Press, 2016), asks: how do particular news events become lasting global myths, while others fade into oblivion? Focusing on journalists covering the fall of the Berlin Wall and on subsequent retellings of the event (from Legoland reenactments to the installation of segments of the Berlin Wall in shopping malls), Sonnevend discusses how storytellers build up certain events so that people remember them for long periods of time. She also shows that the powerful myth of the fall of the Berlin Wall still shapes our debates about separation walls and fences, borders and refugees globally. While her first book focused on magical events in our international imagination, her next book considers a magical quality in human relations. It will analyze the importance of ‘charm’ in foreign affairs, business and everyday social life.